gun ownershipGun laws change frequently and legislation is different between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

MPs frequently debate different aspects of gun law, gun licensing and last year the laws on general licences and shooting were thrown into uproar after unexpected changes.

16 gun laws every responsible shooter needs to know

  1. If you own a shotgun or rifle then you must have a valid shotgun or firearms certificate.
  2. It is against the law to make an untrue statement when you apply for or renew a shotgun or firearms certificate. Do not withold details of past or ‘spent’ convictions or you may be prosecuted. You will need to give details of any previous convictions, including all motoring offences except fixed penalty and parking tickets, whether still recorded on your driving licence or not and whether in Britain or abroad. Informal cautions do not need to be mentioned, but formal written cautions and conditional or absolute discharges do. You can pay the Criminal Records Office for a subject access disclosure, which details all information held about you on the Police National Computer.
  3. In both England and Wales it is against the law to shoot on a public highway or from the verges. It is also an offence if when shooting within 50ft of the centre of a highway someone is injured or put in danger. A highway is any road on which the public can drive a vehicle but does not include footpaths, cycle tracks or bridleways.
  4. You cannot buy a shotgun or ammunition until the age of 18.
  5. At 15 it is lawful to be given or lent a gun by somebody who has a shotgun certificate.
  6. You must be 15 before you can use a shotgun without being supervised by an adult (who must be at least 21).
  7. Young Shots who have a shotgun certificate of their own can borrow a shotgun for up to 72 hours.
  8. If a firearm or shotgun certificate holder is under 18, an individual aged 18 or over must assume responsibility for the secure storage of the firearms and ammunition held on the young person’s certificate.
  9. There is no minimum age to get a shotgun certificate but you have to be 14 to have a firearms certificate.
  10. It is a criminal offence not to notify police when you acquire or dispose of a shotgun.
  11. Scottish residents need to include airguns on their firearms certificate. If you are visiting Scotland and want to take an airgun you need to apply for a visitor’s permit.
  12. It is illegal to be drunk in charge of a loaded gun and an offence to transfer a firearm or ammunition to anyone believed to be drunk. (This includes loaders handing over a gun.)
  13. Do not use lead ammunition to shoot wildfowl. It is illegal and you risk a criminal conviction and a large fine.  
  14. Gun cabinets must be lockable and securely clamped at four points to a solid wall.
  15. Only the owner of a gun certificate should have access to the gun cabinet and you cannot tell a partner who does not have a certificate where the keys are.
  16. There is no offence in having an unloaded shotgun with you in a public place. It’s covered by Section 19 of the Firearms Act which says:

    “A person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies on him) he has with him in a public place

    (a) a loaded shot gun

    (b) an air weapon (whether loaded or not)

    (c) any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm, or

    (d) an imitation firearm.”

    However, in these days of heightened security it is unwise to carry around a shotgun in public, even if it is unloaded and in a gunslip.Be discreet if you need to transport your shotgun, break it down, wrap the parts in something to protect them and put them into a rucksack, along with the slip. It’s never a good idea to carry a gun in public in a gun-shaped case, it attracts attention.

The law on buying shotgun cartridges

Q: I know that I have to show my shotgun licence when buying cartridges. Someone has told me that if I give another person permission they can buy them for me. As my girlfriend works in the next street to the gun shop, it would be handy if she could pick some up for me, but is this allowed?

A: Subsection 5(2) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 covers this. Sub-subsection c) provides that the person purchasing the cartridges “produces a certificate authorising another person to possess such 
a gun together with that person’s written authority to purchase the ammunition on his behalf”.

All you need to do is give your girlfriend your shotgun certificate — not a copy — together with a letter to the gun shop owner saying that you give her authority to buy the cartridges for you. The authority 
can be given without date, so that she can keep you topped up with cartridges throughout the season.

air rifle scopes

Can a local registered firearms dealer ‘confiscate’ an air rifle?

All responsible airgunners should know their airgun law correctly so that their activities don’t put the sport into disrepute. But what happens if an air rifle is confiscated by a firearms dealer? Here’s what our legal expert advised when a reader felt he had a justified complaint as to how…

Female Gun with pheasant

Can my wife use my gun cabinet for her shotguns?

Q: I’m wondering if we need to have two gun cabinets in our house or whether it would be legal to just have one. I shoot both rifles and shotguns and so have both a firearms licence and a shotgun licence. My wife has taken up shooting in the past…

removals van

Moving house and your gun certificates – what you need to know

When you’re moving house you want everything to run as smoothly as possible. But what should you do if you’re a gun owner? What are the legalities to obey with a firearms or shotgun certificate when you’re moving house? Well, you must tell the local police about your forthcoming move…

Browning shotgun

Keeping your guns secure and safe – some police advice

When you’re the owner of a gun you need to be vigilant about firearms security. Which means being safe out in the field, when you’re transporting the gun and when you’re storing your gun. The last thing you want to happen is for your gun to fall into the wrong…

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What are the latest waiting times for shotgun and firearm certificates?

Just how long does it take to receive or renew a shotgun licence or firearms certificate these days. Your firearms and/or shotgun waiting time all depends on where you live. Shotgun licence waiting time in 2019 The table below created by British Association of Shooting & Conservation (BASC) shows the…

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How far do shotgun pellets travel?

We did a risk assessment on our syndicate shoot last season and highlighted a slippery stream crossing (two planks of wood) as a potential problem.

Young Shot

Should a youngster have his or her own shotgun certificate?

Q:  I would like to buy my son his first shotgun as a birthday present when he turns 14 this summer. Can he have his own shotgun certificate or is it best to put it on mine? A: Whilst I would suggest the new shotgun should be on yours as…

forward allowance

My shotgun certificate renewal has been refused!

The police have refused to renew my shotgun certificate on the grounds that I pose a threat to public safety or the peace, citing my domestic circumstances, and the fact that I had a shotgun in the boot of my car when the FEO visited - I was about to…

Should I tell the police about my gun?

Q: My shotgun has to go back for some work under warranty. The registered firearms dealer (RFD) I bought 
it from is sending a courier to my house to pick it up. Do I have to tell the police that the gun won’t be in my possession for a bit?…

lock, stock and barrel on shotgun

Gun lending rules

Q: When a person lends a shotgun to a non-certificate holder on 
a private shoot, must the gun be 
on their certificate? Loans of shotguns and gun lending on private premises is now regulated by 
the Policing and Crime Act 2017. Section 130 of the act merely states: “A person…

Help! How can I get my guns back from the police?

How can I get my guns back from the police? Last year, the relationship with my longterm partner ended, although not very amicably. Some days later, I received a visit from the firearms department at 9.15 in the evening.